Rep schemes remain in the hypertrophy range this week, but overall volume increases by adding more sets to individual exercises: up to five sets per move for larger bodyparts, and even 10 sets of calf raises on Thursday. This bump in volume will ensure that your muscles are overloaded sufficiently to continue the growth they’ve already begun experiencing in the first three weeks. Completion of this four-week program now entitles you to go to the next stage.
Be patient! Too many people want it all right now so they become frustrated if they haven’t built their dream body within a few months of training. When such a point is reached, many bodybuilders either quit altogether, or turn to dangerous drugs such as steroids, or synthetic hormones in order to speed up the process. Steroids are insidious. They may produce rapid gains in the short term, however, the compromises are extraordinary and should be very carefully considered. The steroid users that I knew 15 years ago that I wished I could look like are now either dead or out of shape dealing with severe health problems. If you love bodybuilding like I do, then you will want to be able to do it, and enjoy it from now until well into your golden years of life. Don’t get discouraged when progress doesn’t seem to be coming quickly enough. I’ve been there before, so I know how it feels. I can tell you from experience that if you are persistent it will pay off eventually. It took me 26 years to put on 40 lbs of muscle! That averages out to roughly 1.5 pounds of muscle gained each year!
Bodybuilders got into shape for competitions by both adjusting their diets and increasing the intensity of the workout. The high volume trainers would burn an incredible amount of calories just by the sheer amount of work performed at each training session. Many bodybuilders would increase the frequency of their training as the contest got closer, doing a double split routine for the last twelve weeks before the competition. A double split routine would include two training sessions per day, one in the morning and another workout about eight hours later in the late afternoon or early evening.
Dumbbells. I prefer solid dumbbells since the plate-loading type can be tedious to change repeatedly. Dumbbells cost anywhere from 50 cents to $1 per pound. Solid hex dumbbells are what I recommend because they are inexpensive, and they don't roll around like round dumbbells. You might also decide to purchase a bench. Look for an adjustable bench that is well constructed. It should not rock and should feel solid when you lie down on it. If you decide to purchase a bar for the bench press, then you will need uprights on your bench. I don't recommend this for beginners due to safety issues (unless you have a spotter); you can always do dumbbell presses to get you started. If you decide to go with a bar and plates, then look for a 35- to 45-pound bar with collars to lock the plates in place, and then you need to buy plates to load the bar. Figure to shoot for a bench press of up to 100 pounds, so you will need to purchase plates for at least that amount. You can start with two 25-pound plates, four 10-pound plates, and four 5-pound plates. That will get most beginners started.
Most bodybuilders become familiar with their kitchens as a matter of necessity. Whether you can quickly master taste or not, cooking your own food means you know everything going into it. During a cut, where excess salt or sugar in ready meals and takeaways can hinder weight loss, bringing your own food to work will eliminate any risky meal choices.
So this month, in keeping with strength-building custom, heavy sets of just five reps on basic, meat-and-potatoes lifts will serve as the backbone of your routine. But a lighter set of 30 reps at the end of each exercise (abs excepted) will provide the additional GH spike needed to boost strength and help you build denser mass. Rest 2-3 minutes between sets, and skip the definitive set of 30 for the final act on abs, for which you’ll perform four straight sets of 20 reps. Make sure you choose a heavy enough weight on that last high-rep set to make the final 5-6 reps challenging and so you elicit the best muscular and hormonal response.
In Week 1 you’ll perform three sets of every exercise per workout, which over the course of the week adds up to nine sets total for each bodypart, a good starting volume for your purposes. With the exception of crunches for abs, you’ll do 8–12 reps per set. This rep scheme is widely considered ideal for achieving gains in muscle size (the scientific term is hypertrophy) and is commonly employed by amateur and pro bodybuilders alike.
Design your training regimen to conform to your athletic objectives. Many athletes cycle their training according to their competition schedule. Three to four months out from a fight, a boxer might "train heavy" for strength and power. By eight weeks out, he/she has decreased the weight, increased his reps, and cut back on free weights to emphasize cables and machines. During the last four weeks, he/she eliminates weight-training altogether, concentrating entirely on speed drills and boxing. A power lifter will employ the opposite strategy. Three months out from a meet, he/she may incorporate many different exercises into his/her routine including machines, cables, and free weights. Two months out, the reps have dropped and so have the number of different exercises. The last weeks before the meet may include sets of only two or three reps of the most basic movements: bench press, squat, and dead lift.
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